Hot Best Seller

The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898

Availability: Ready to download

The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, a The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War. The founding mythology that coalesced in their speeches and writings--most notably Stanton and Anthony's "History of Woman Suffrage"--provided younger activists with the vital resource of a usable past for the ongoing struggle, and it helped consolidate Stanton and Anthony's leadership against challenges from the grassroots and rival suffragists. As Tetrault shows, while this mythology has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to champion women's rights, the myth of Seneca Falls itself became an influential factor in the suffrage movement. And along the way, its authors amassed the first archive of feminism and literally invented the modern discipline of women's history.


Compare

The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, a The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War. The founding mythology that coalesced in their speeches and writings--most notably Stanton and Anthony's "History of Woman Suffrage"--provided younger activists with the vital resource of a usable past for the ongoing struggle, and it helped consolidate Stanton and Anthony's leadership against challenges from the grassroots and rival suffragists. As Tetrault shows, while this mythology has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to champion women's rights, the myth of Seneca Falls itself became an influential factor in the suffrage movement. And along the way, its authors amassed the first archive of feminism and literally invented the modern discipline of women's history.

30 review for The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898

  1. 4 out of 5

    kayleigh

    4 stars. I read The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 for one of my history research papers, so I'm not going to review. 4 stars. I read The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 for one of my history research papers, so I'm not going to review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ameya Warde

    READ THIS if you have any interest in or connection to feminism and/or history. I can't say enough good things about this book. It is excellently researched and written. I'm so glad I bought a copy because I highlighted the hell out of it, and wrote tons of margin notes. It seems like white feminists like myself have only relatively recently realized how effing god-awful Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton were (inexcusibley racist), but that knowledge hasn't really been put into any kind READ THIS if you have any interest in or connection to feminism and/or history. I can't say enough good things about this book. It is excellently researched and written. I'm so glad I bought a copy because I highlighted the hell out of it, and wrote tons of margin notes. It seems like white feminists like myself have only relatively recently realized how effing god-awful Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton were (inexcusibley racist), but that knowledge hasn't really been put into any kind of context that I've seen (being a non-academic). This book is brilliant at deconstructing the BS myth of Seneca Falls being the foundation of American Feminism, and about Anthony being anything other than a very talented/heavy-handed organizer, who manages to strategically, impressively, and disgustingly manipulate people and the historical narrative of the movement to very unfairly become it's queen. There is so much more to the history of even the white women's rights movement than her, or the vote, and Seneca Falls was essentially a non-event until Anthony spun the myth about it to give her and Stanton more power within the movement (though Anthony wasn't even there!)... and of course, there is so much more to the history of The Women's Movement in general, because Women of Color have always been fighting for their rights, but Anthony erased them at every chance she had. This book should be required reading for all feminists and activisits to dissect and kill this myth (and the previous generations' constant worship of Anthony). It makes space in the historical conciousness for so many potential Women's Histories telling all the stories that were silenced for not being useful to Anthony's single-minded obsession with the educated-white-female-vote's narrative that she forced upon the movement.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tom N

    THE MYTH OF SENECA FALLS, by Lisa Tetrault, is the story of the women's rights movement, which began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848, which still remains a mystery. It recognizes the founders of the suffrage movement, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott. These women gradually created and popularized this story during the second half of the 1800s in response to "internal movement dynamics" as well as the racial politics of memory following the Civil War. The THE MYTH OF SENECA FALLS, by Lisa Tetrault, is the story of the women's rights movement, which began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848, which still remains a mystery. It recognizes the founders of the suffrage movement, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott. These women gradually created and popularized this story during the second half of the 1800s in response to "internal movement dynamics" as well as the racial politics of memory following the Civil War. The founding mythology that was found in their speeches and writings, most notably Stanton and Anthony's "History of Woman Suffrage", provided younger activists with the vital resource of a prior history for the ongoing struggle, and it helped join together Stanton and Anthony's leadership against challenges from the grassroots and rivaling suffragists. While this mythology has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to support women's rights, the myth of Seneca Falls itself became an important factor in the suffrage movement. Along the way, its authors amassed the first archive of feminism and literally invented the modern discipline of women's history. This was an intriguing story of a part of history that remains largely unknown or under question. We recommend it to those who love reading about the fight for women's right to vote.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Warren

    “…memory is made, not found, and what we remember matters.” This book isn’t the easiest read, but it is very interesting.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    Really well researched and an in-depth look at the story created around Seneca Falls by the earliest feminists to work to their advantage, history not always withstanding. Tetrault also gives focus to a lot of women that history forgot (or that Anthony made sure history forgot) and how the many, many, many women's and social movements of the time co-existed with the suffrage movement, usually not well but everyone striving to move the bar forward always. I appreciated that Tetrault also does not Really well researched and an in-depth look at the story created around Seneca Falls by the earliest feminists to work to their advantage, history not always withstanding. Tetrault also gives focus to a lot of women that history forgot (or that Anthony made sure history forgot) and how the many, many, many women's and social movements of the time co-existed with the suffrage movement, usually not well but everyone striving to move the bar forward always. I appreciated that Tetrault also does not shy away from the many issues and people the suffrage movement failed and/or pointedly ignored, particularly where it failed all women that didn't fit into its stylized picture of the white, middle-class straight woman as the "right kind of voter". Definitely aimed at an academic audience, the book is very readable due to the fact the movement was fascinating and certainly never boring.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susanna Sturgis

    This probably isn't the best place to start learning about the U.S. women's suffrage movement, but once you've dipped in and/or refreshed your memory, it's essential. I came to it while rekindling my interest in Matilda Joslyn Gage, a giant of 19th century feminist history whose name was largely lost to 20th century feminists and women's historians and is now being slowly reclaimed through the work of Gage scholar Sally Roesch Wagner and others. Gage was a co-author of the first three volumes of This probably isn't the best place to start learning about the U.S. women's suffrage movement, but once you've dipped in and/or refreshed your memory, it's essential. I came to it while rekindling my interest in Matilda Joslyn Gage, a giant of 19th century feminist history whose name was largely lost to 20th century feminists and women's historians and is now being slowly reclaimed through the work of Gage scholar Sally Roesch Wagner and others. Gage was a co-author of the first three volumes of the monumental History of Woman Suffrage: why are her two co-authors, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, household names at least to those with an interest in women's history, while Gage is virtually unknown? Anthony, it seemed, had a big hand in this. Why? What was she up to? How did she get away with it? The Myth of Seneca Falls explores this in great detail and very persuasively. By "myth" Lisa Tetrault does not mean that the Seneca Falls meeting never happened. She's asking how and why that meeting has come to loom so large in our collective memory of the women's suffrage movement and the movement for women's rights more generally. How did the story of Seneca Falls come to dominate our understanding of U.S. women's history, and what stories were marginalized or erased in the process? Tetrault locates the beginning of the myth in the tumult following the end of the Civil War and the decades that followed. The war had disrupted women's rights organizing along with everything else, and the bitter battles that followed over the wording and eventual adoption of the 14th and 15th Amendments were equally divisive. Women's rights activists who'd cut their teeth in the abolition movement were pitted against each other, and often against their male allies, both white and black. Women drawn to the movement after the war had little or no recollection of what had gone before. Needed was "a shared history [white women's rights activists] recognized as best representing their collective past -- a past used to chart their future. The eventual triumph of one particular story, over any number of possible stories, was the product of a long-lived contest within and outside the movement. . . . As this mythological tale took shape, it did more than simply reflect activists' understanding of the past. It would fundamentally reshape the movement over the second half of the nineteenth century." This history was, to put it mildly, contested at every step of the way. As Tetrault makes clear, it was also shaped by political and cultural circumstances over which the activists had very little control, notably the end of Reconstruction and the return of white supremacy to the South, which greatly influenced the composition and predispositions of Congress. Another factor was the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which was far larger and more influential than any other women's organization. It was also largely white and explicitly Christian. Writes Tetrault: "Over the 1880s, the religious conservatism of the WCTU changed the face of the suffrage movement, as it exerted greater and greater influence. On the ground, it was hard to tell the two movements apart" because so many women came into the suffrage movement via the WCTU. This led directly to a laser-like focus on suffrage as the main thing the two movements agreed on, and also to the marginalization of both Matilda Joslyn Gage and even Elizabeth Cady Stanton, both of whom were implacably and publicly critical of the role of the Christian church in oppressing women. (Stanton's Woman's Bible was used as a weapon against suffragists in the 1920 fight to get Tennessee to ratify the 19th Amendment, even though it was published in 1895 and Stanton herself had died in 1902.) I came away from this book with great admiration for Susan B. Anthony as a master strategist, not least because she early on recognized the importance of story in holding a diverse, fractious coalition together. Her choices and her not infrequent ruthlessness in enforcing them both made me angry and gave me a deeper understanding of the women's movement as I've known it through the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st. I've watched similar myth-making happen in other movements too: How many of us still believe that Rosa Parks came out of nowhere, or that the gay rights movement began with a fracas at the Stonewall Inn in 1969? Could women's right to vote have been won by a more inclusive movement, one that (like many 19th century women activists) recognized that women were oppressed in multiple, overlapping ways and that the vote wasn't going to fix everything? Both Congress and the state legislatures were made up almost entirely of white men, and Congress in particular was dominated by the white-supremacist South. So I doubt it, but I would love to read a persuasive argument, an alt-history perhaps, that it could have happened. What shocked me most about The Myth of Seneca Falls was not the realpolitik of Anthony and others. What shocked me most was Tetrault's epilogue, "The Bonfires of History." After amassing a women's history archive so massive that Anthony had to add a third-floor attic to her home to store it all, Anthony and her collaborator Ida Husted Harper burned a large portion of it. How large we don't know, nor do we know what was consigned to the flames -- or why. As Tetrault notes, "The burning clearly took place, on a massive scale, but the motivations behind it are harder to decipher. The consequences were clear, however: the destruction of the original sources meant that Anthony's authorized biography [written by Harper] and the History of Woman Suffrage would become the source." Nevertheless, Tetrault adds, "Anthony was inarguably the greatest woman historian -- and historian of women -- in her century. . . . Indeed, Anthony largely pioneered the now familiar figure of the scholar-activist, and particularly the historian-activist." Fortunately, 20th and 21st century historians have been rediscovering what was lost, marginalized, or erased and giving us deeper, broader, and altogether richer stories about our ongoing movement, its origins, its present, and its future. George Orwell might have been channeling Susan B. Anthony when he wrote, in 1984, "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." This sounds unrelentingly chilling -- but only if one forgets that control of the present is very much up for grabs.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I don't usually review my readings for 510 classes, which are on historical readings, but The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 was such a high note to finish my 19th century women's rights class on that I wanted to make note of it. This book seeks to deconstruct the mythology built up around the Seneca Falls convention, which was done by Stanton and Anthony purposefully and with strong political motivations, and it does so in a clear, smart, and well-rese I don't usually review my readings for 510 classes, which are on historical readings, but The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 was such a high note to finish my 19th century women's rights class on that I wanted to make note of it. This book seeks to deconstruct the mythology built up around the Seneca Falls convention, which was done by Stanton and Anthony purposefully and with strong political motivations, and it does so in a clear, smart, and well-researched manner. In terms of readability, however, this gets into all of the interpersonal gossip and House of Cards style trash that our other course readings marginalized. Political schisms, personal fights, and backroom dealings all get to play a significant role in this book, illustrating how Stanton and Anthony manipulated the truth to create a clear narrative of the suffrage movement that played to their own ends. I don't often say this about readings for class, but I both really enjoyed it and feel like I understand the underlying politics of suffrage better for having read it. The highest praise I can give this is that I don't think I'm going to try to sell it back.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alenna

    This probably is a great book. I just couldn’t get past page 37 because I’ve been too busy reading other things. I’ll probably give it another shot in the future.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I really enjoyed this book. It is well researched and provides a great overview of the 19th century women's movement, but from a different perspective (memory). I really enjoyed this book. It is well researched and provides a great overview of the 19th century women's movement, but from a different perspective (memory).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bennett

    3.5/5*

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robin Mitchell

    I loved this book. It will piss you off. Be forewarned.

  12. 5 out of 5

    JFN

    A straight-forward work tracing how and why Seneca Falls was pinpointed as the beginning of the women's rights movement in America. Lots of context provided in these pages for a too-little known, and too-little taught, part of history. Don't be thrown off by the title -- the author's not implying that anything that happened at Seneca Fall sin 1848 was a myth or not important. The purpose of this work is to explore why the women's convention there became, from a historical viewpoint, the stake-in A straight-forward work tracing how and why Seneca Falls was pinpointed as the beginning of the women's rights movement in America. Lots of context provided in these pages for a too-little known, and too-little taught, part of history. Don't be thrown off by the title -- the author's not implying that anything that happened at Seneca Fall sin 1848 was a myth or not important. The purpose of this work is to explore why the women's convention there became, from a historical viewpoint, the stake-in-the-ground moment among many moments that could have been perceived as the movement's origins, and why an origin story mattered at all. Really smart book, accessible read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Hatch

    Fantastic. This is my favorite kind of history to read. Tetrault engages in an amazing discussion about the role of memory in creating history & historical figures & how suffragists used memory to propel their cause. The “myth” of Seneca Falls isn’t that the convention didn’t occur but rather that it was chosen retrospectively as the creation story of the movement in order to give the National American Woman Suffrage Movement, and it’s leaders, greater credibility. I’m not sure this is the first Fantastic. This is my favorite kind of history to read. Tetrault engages in an amazing discussion about the role of memory in creating history & historical figures & how suffragists used memory to propel their cause. The “myth” of Seneca Falls isn’t that the convention didn’t occur but rather that it was chosen retrospectively as the creation story of the movement in order to give the National American Woman Suffrage Movement, and it’s leaders, greater credibility. I’m not sure this is the first American suffrage history book you should read, because it leans heavily on analysis, but it is definitely one you should read sometime.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lafayette Public Library Reads

    This book nicely balanced the history of the women’s suffrage movement and the exploration of how historical narratives are crafted. To me, it seemed slightly negative on Susan B. Anthony since it seemed like she used the movement somewhat to her own ends, while others such as Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were minimized over time. It is very strange that Anthony burned her papers as if she wanted her histories to be the lone surviving documents.

  15. 4 out of 5

    EAM

    A must-read for any person interested in learning this complex and fascinating early history of suffrage/feminism in the U.S. Well researched and written - Tetrault does a nice job summarizing disparate sources to create a compelling and comprehensive story of this movement. For many, this book will be a starting point to more detailed studies/aspects of this history, but for all readers, I think it will become a fantastic reference well into the future...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    This book nicely balanced the history of the women’s suffrage movement and the exploration of how historical narratives are crafted. To me, it seemed slightly negative on Susan B. Anthony since it seemed like she used the movement somewhat to her own ends, while others such as Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were minimized over time. It is very strange that Anthony burned her papers as if she wanted her histories to be the lone surviving documents. I will have to think about “the importanc This book nicely balanced the history of the women’s suffrage movement and the exploration of how historical narratives are crafted. To me, it seemed slightly negative on Susan B. Anthony since it seemed like she used the movement somewhat to her own ends, while others such as Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were minimized over time. It is very strange that Anthony burned her papers as if she wanted her histories to be the lone surviving documents. I will have to think about “the importance of collective historical memory to the operation of social movements.”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andlandm

    Slow history of women's struggle for the right to vote, concentrating on the fights between various factions of how to proceed. Provides a very good case that Anthony and Stanton created the normally accepted history of the movement, downplaying or ignoring women with other views. Slow history of women's struggle for the right to vote, concentrating on the fights between various factions of how to proceed. Provides a very good case that Anthony and Stanton created the normally accepted history of the movement, downplaying or ignoring women with other views.

  18. 4 out of 5

    SSShafiq

    Aug 2020: I figure if we're going to be talking about mass scale movement changing history, as a woman, I may want to brush up on my history on the Suffrage movement. Also because my brother knows about it more than I do - and that cannot be allowed. Well it can ... but still ... Aug 2020: I figure if we're going to be talking about mass scale movement changing history, as a woman, I may want to brush up on my history on the Suffrage movement. Also because my brother knows about it more than I do - and that cannot be allowed. Well it can ... but still ...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    "Memory is made, not found, and what we remember matters." "Memory is made, not found, and what we remember matters."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Great book about women's suffrage and the women's movement in general. Relatively accessible narrative as well Great book about women's suffrage and the women's movement in general. Relatively accessible narrative as well

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna Domestico

    Excellent. A well-researched historical deep dive into the women's movement in American history. Highly recommend for anyone who considers themself a feminist and/or activist. Tetrault's work reveals the issues of memory, history, and the consistent challenges faced by those trying to change the course of history. Excellent. A well-researched historical deep dive into the women's movement in American history. Highly recommend for anyone who considers themself a feminist and/or activist. Tetrault's work reveals the issues of memory, history, and the consistent challenges faced by those trying to change the course of history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Picked this up in an attempt to catch up on recent historiography regarding the suffrage movement--and so glad I did. Totally eye opening in the ways that this history have been molded over many, many years--and how this history became an important tool in the whole movement.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Rispoli-Roberts

    In her book, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898, Lisa Tetrault examines the early years of women’s suffrage, in particular, the origins of the women’s movement. She argues that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony created an Origin Myth in writing their History of Woman Suffrage, which placed them in a position of leadership. Tetrault argues that the two women turned a small convention in Seneca Falls-which Anthony did not even attend- into a mom In her book, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898, Lisa Tetrault examines the early years of women’s suffrage, in particular, the origins of the women’s movement. She argues that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony created an Origin Myth in writing their History of Woman Suffrage, which placed them in a position of leadership. Tetrault argues that the two women turned a small convention in Seneca Falls-which Anthony did not even attend- into a momentous historical event: the origin of the suffrage movement. It is important to note that Tetrault does not use the word myth to mean a lie or falsehood. Rather, a myth is “a venerated and celebrated story used to give meaning to the world.” For the memory of Seneca Falls to become a myth, it had to be imbued with meaning, which was provided by Stanton and Anthony. As she states in the Prologue: “Stories are made not found.” In the process, much of the grassroots efforts of others were pushed to the background. Tetrault’s thesis claims that women did not actually, or collectively, decide or agree on Seneca Falls as the origin of the women’s movement, until Stanton and Anthony framed it as such. The Myth of Seneca Falls provides an interesting and important look at the role memory can play in creating the construction of history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    A fascinating and engaging look at the early years of the suffrage movement. It so interesting to see the active formation of the movement's origin story and to know more about the fuller movement for women's rights in the Reconstruction Era. Disheartening how Anthony and so many others worked all their lives for suffrage and never really got to see the fruits of their labor. Fascinating how suffrage has come to be a stand-in or all women's rights work in this era, forgetting the work for econom A fascinating and engaging look at the early years of the suffrage movement. It so interesting to see the active formation of the movement's origin story and to know more about the fuller movement for women's rights in the Reconstruction Era. Disheartening how Anthony and so many others worked all their lives for suffrage and never really got to see the fruits of their labor. Fascinating how suffrage has come to be a stand-in or all women's rights work in this era, forgetting the work for economic, sexual, and relationship freedom, as well as movements for temperance and political rights, such as the ability to sign contracts.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  28. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Stewart

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric Toler

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...